Ask anyone who has ever gotten sober, ever. When you quit drinking, you will need to find a way to calm your mind and find peace within your emotions. Read any book, ask any sponsor, attend any meeting, and they will all agree on one thing: Recovery = Diving into your inner experience.
Many of the quit lit books I've read give some pretty good examples of how to learn how to sit with yourself. Many suggest practices of yoga, meditation, exercise, journaling, and more. Healthy mindful movement can be extremely therapeutic for stored energy, but meditation works wonders for the restless mind.
I learned and practiced meditation about a year before I quit drinking, so I was familiar with the practice. In the first year that I meditated, I had many great self discoveries and soon became a huge advocate for meditation practices.
About six months after I quit drinking, I dedicated my mornings to only five minutes of meditation. I would say that meditating sober has been both easier and harder. It's easier because I feel a lot less shameful than I did when I was drinking. It's harder because I'm a lot more in tune with how I feel, and the voice in my head is much louder.
I've updated my morning routine many times since January, but meditation has remained a vital part of it. Gradually, I started meditating for ten minutes a day, and now I'm meditating for fifteen every morning. Fifteen minutes can feel like a long time to sit in silence, but my body and mind have gotten used to it.
This post isn't about my routine meditation, however. This post is about a specific meditation experience that has changed my perspective on life. This post is about the time I did a sensory deprivation float tank.
If you've never heard of a sensory deprivation float tank, it's pretty much what it sounds like. You float in a tub of a few feet of water that is diluted with enough salt for your body to naturally float. You have to use ear plugs so that the saltwater doesn't go into your ears, but your head always stays above water. The water is room temperature, so you don't feel too warm or cold.
The idea is that you're in an environment where your body can relax while you are eased from your anxiety. It essentially feels like zero gravity. For me, it was an intense one hour meditation session.
When I first got into the tank, I, of course, had to adjust to my environment. For the first ten minutes, lights illuminated the tub so that I could ease into it. When I got in, I was completely aware of the feeling of water on my body and the earplugs in my ears. I felt myself slowly drift around the tub.
Once the lights turned off and the room was completely dark, I felt an intense sense of panic. It was pitch black, and I was terrified. I wasn't afraid of the dark... nothing like that. I was afraid of being completely alone with myself and my thoughts.
I dove into this fear immediately, because I knew it had something to teach me. I came to the realization that I had a choice to make. I could continue living in fear of my inner experience, or I could embrace it. I chose to embrace it, and I learned a great teaching from that.
We have the ability to make our reality a living heaven or hell. How you choose to interact with your thoughts dictates how you will navigate life. Instead of resisting my consciousness, I welcomed it in.
I checked in with myself, and realized that I no longer had a physical sensation of being connected to my physical body. I was only mind and soul. And this time, I let the fear in.
I felt my consciousness shoot into the darkness and land among the stars. I realized that this is what death felt like. I started to cry. Not out of fear, or pain, but out of love and peace. I felt the presence of my Papa who had been dead for about ten years. He was there with me, as was many others who I lost in my waking life. I couldn't see his face or his physical body, but I felt his presence right beside me.
Our conscious' do not die when our bodies do. They are energy, and they contribute to the whole of the universe. Floating among the stars, I looked back down at earth, and was transported into one of my memories.
It was July 2020, and I was laying on the hood of my tan Honda CRV with my boyfriend. We were parked on a back road in an unfinished housing development. It was about two in the morning, and the night was quiet. The air was thick, the bugs were swarming, and we were curious and in love. We looked up at the stars, pointing and laughing, filled to the brim with life.
We spent hours out there that night. You never know you're living in a memory until you look back on it.
I felt tears trickle down my face once again. There I was, on that warm July night, looking up at myself without realizing it. And here I was, my conscious soul looking down at myself in transcendence. What a miracle it is was to unknowingly recognize myself in the stars.
Life is not linear. Not at all. It's not even circular. It's everywhere, all at once. Everything is connected. Everything is whole.
Death doesn't scare me anymore.
The lights slowly turned on, and I was brought back to the physical world. I didn't really want to leave the spiritual world. Not yet. But, I had a life to live with my newfound knowledge. I had more memories to make to look back on from the stars later.
I rinsed off the saltwater and spent some time in the relaxation room so I could adjust to the real world again. I had learned that pain and suffering were apart of the human experience. All the anxiety, stress, illness and pain we feel is connected to our physical bodies. Even so, they only add to the experience of a rich life.
On a notepad, I decided to write about my experience. What came up was this:
First time floating and it won't be the last. Such a spiritual and emotional experience. I was overwhelmed by the darkness at first, but realized great freedom in our ability to construct our consciousness. I've struggled with the fear of death my whole life, but after 60 minutes, I'm not so afraid anymore. Human suffering is temporary. Love and peace are forever.
I walked away that day with a little less fear, and a little more love. Sometimes, I need to remind myself that there is no point of stressing about the future. In order to live a fulfilling life to look back on, I must step in the present and simply be.
"What you are looking for is already in you. You already are everything you are seeking"
- Thich Nhat Hanh